How Does Domestic Violence Affect Children?
- Preschoolers and kindergartners who have witnessed domestic violence or have experienced the abuse themselves are not mature enough to fully grasp the situation. The most common conclusion young children come to is they must have misbehaved and so they blame themselves, leading to feelings of guilt and nervousness. Since children in this age group don't usually have the verbal skills to explain how they feel, they tend to act out to show they are upset by either becoming quiet and withdrawn or acting clingy and scared to be alone. Young children can also experience physical symptoms due to exposure to domestic violence, such as not eating or sleeping, having headaches or not being able to concentrate.
- Preadolescent children (generally around 9 to 12 years old) are more able to understand the significance of the domestic violence situation and experience more anxiety and behavioral problems than younger children. They tend to have nightmares as well as problems eating and sleeping. Preadolescent boys are more likely to become rebellious at school and act violently themselves as a way to get attention, such as getting into fights with kids at school or hitting their family members. Preadolescent girls who experience domestic violence tend to become quiet and avoid social activity. Since they are most likely keeping their home life a secret, they cannot invite friends over; therefore, they become withdrawn. Since girls are less likely to act out, their symptoms are likely to be unnoticed.
- Adolescents who experience domestic violence are more likely to have problems at school, both academically and behaviorally, because of the stress of living in a violent home. They may fail classes, get into fights with other students, rebel against authority and ultimately drop out of school. Exposure to domestic violence also tends to affect adolescents more seriously in their personal decisions. They are likely to abuse drugs and alcohol to relieve their feelings of anxiety or low self-worth. Adolescents who come from a violent household are also likely to repeat the cycle of violence in their own relationships, by either dating partners who mentally, emotionally or physically abuse them or becoming abusive themselves because it is what they are used to.